Yes everyone is meditating. Or at the very least talking about meditation, or planning to start meditation or expressing their frustration with meditation.
While most of us are in consensus that meditation is useful and has real health benefits, we still remain a little mystified by what it is, what it’s supposed to look like and how to know if it’s working.
So let’s set the record straight about meditation.
Over the years improper teachings, quick sales tactics and packaging have led to everything being labelled as Meditation. And in the process caused unnecessary frustration amongst practitioners and beginners who haven’t been told the difference and the stages of practice or what to expect.
A lot of people get frustrated with ‘meditation’ because they aren’t always experiencing the bliss or the oneness. Or they get frustrated because they can’t seem to cease the thoughts and the mind drifts.
It’s like waking up one day and deciding to run the Ironman and then getting frustrated when you can’t even finish the swim.
The Yoga Sutras describe a certain process using three words; Dharana, Dhyana and Samadhi. The experience that these three words bring for the practitioner is lumped into one and this is labelled as Meditation but these are distinct stages and layer on top of each other to take the practitioner to the final experience.
Roughly translated, Dharana means focusing or directly attention; Dhyana means single-minded concentration; Samadhi means oneness.
*To further clarify, there are various levels of Samadhi that are achieved but we won’t go there for the purpose of this blog.
These three words are listed in sequence in the Yoga Sutras and are meant to convey to students the path of achieving oneness or union with the source, what to expect and what to work on. If we understand the process and the meaning of these words, we can easily identify where we are, what we experience and what needs to be worked on.
When we start our practice of ‘meditation’ we actually need to start with Dharana, focusing or directing our attention. This means that we need only to narrow down our scattered thoughts and noisy minds. Maybe we narrow it down to a couple of thoughts, one thought, one object or one mantra. The objective here is to train and master the mind so as to cease generating random thoughts and to narrow our focus. That’s it.
The next level of our practice is Dhyana, a single-minded concentration. This means that we work on and bring complete awareness to the present. In addition, the objective is to train the mind to stay for longer periods of acute awareness of that singular thought or present moment. This practice continues until we have complete control and mastery over the duration of acute awareness.
The next level of the practice is the experience of Samadhi, oneness with the source. The experience and the descriptions vary based on the practitioner. The objective, however, is to become one or be in a state where the individual self, ceases to exist. It could be a moment or several moments where one moves beyond the body and mind and experiences, what often gets described as ‘bliss’.
The three stages or levels are the recommended design so that practitioners can gradually prepare their minds to experience the bliss for long continuous periods of time.
Most of us actively look for some out of body experience each time we sit on the mat and get frustrated when we don’t find it.
Now that we understand the difference, let’s ask ourselves, where are we with our practice?
Now let’s ask ourselves, is it worth getting frustrated when all that we need to do is to work at the appropriate level.
Let’s all relax about it. The more we relax, the more we find success.
The first step is to master narrowing the focus of our thoughts at will and control if a new thought is generated. This takes time.
When we’ve got that in the bag, we need to master holding focus for long periods of time, at will, on call without breaking focus or getting distracted. This too takes time.
Yes, there are moments when we will experience the bliss even if we haven’t mastered the first two stages. It happens. But even if we don’t doesn’t mean that our practice was a waste or we aren’t doing it.
Some days we might hold focus, some days our minds are running wild and that’s OK. This is exactly why we practice and what we need to master. We need to figure a way to instruct the mind instead of being dragged by it.
So don’t be frustrated with your Meditation practice, just keep at it.
May we all find ‘The oneness’ and melt the ‘I-ness’